Between Adolescence and Adulthood: Expectations about the Timing of Adulthood

Sheela Kennedy, Ruben G Rumbaut, Richard A Settersten Jr., Frank F Furstenberg Jr., Vonnie C McLoyd

Research output: Working paper


In the period following World War II, adulthood came early to most Americans. The vast majority of Americans had assumed adult roles by their late teens or early 20s. Today, it takes much longer to make the transition to adulthood: adulthood no longer begins when adolescence ends. We use opinion data from the General Social Survey, to describe contemporary attitudes about the nature and timing of this changing period of life. We find that although Americans believe that the transition to adulthood will begin in the late teens or early 20s, they have accepted that it often extends through the late 20s. The definition of adulthood that emerges from the GSS includes being financially independent, leaving home, completing school, and working full-time. Nearly half of Americans viewed marriage and parenthood, once defining markers of adulthood, as unimportant for the attainment of adult status.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2004

Publication series

NameNetwork on Transitions to Adulthood and Public Policy, Research Network Working Paper


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